Scientists are examining whether a simple memory test can actually detect a dementia before symptoms appear. The test, which involves patients looking at and identifying a mountainous landscape from various angles, costs very little but it is proving to be extremely effective. This ‘Four Mountains’ test (4MT) utilises a person’s spacial memory, a part of the brain that is affected by a dementia like Alzheimer’s.
Intervention to Halt Symptoms
Devised 10 years ago, the test is able to detect early warning of a dementia and, it is hoped, be able to catch it and implement early intervention to slow down or even halt the symptoms. At present, a dementia is often only detected and diagnosed once the symptoms begin to show, when it is at an advanced stage and there is little anyone can do.
Cambridge Clinical Neuroscience Lecturer, Dennis Chan states that there is ‘an urgent need for a way of screening the millions of middle-aged people who (go) to their GP’s with mild cognitive impairment.’
A Million By 2025
Currently, around 850,000 people in the UK have a dementia like Alzheimer’s and there are still no drugs found to offer treatment. The disease causes severe cognitive decline and loss of memory and is on course to affect a million British people by 2025. NHS options include a costly £700 lumber puncture (taking fluid samples from the spine) or a £1.500 brain scan to examine for abnormalities.
Trials are expected to continue until next year and if successful, scientists are predicting that ‘the first drugs could be prescribed within a decade’.